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Rodney King had yet to 'realize his importance,' former attorney says

June 17, 2012 | 12:09 pm

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Rodney King, who became an international figure overnight after his beating by police helped spark the 1992 Los Angeles riots, was a man who had yet to "realize his importance," his former attorney said Sunday.

King’s fiancée found the 47-year-old at the bottom of his pool at his Rialto home early Sunday, police said. Officers pulled him from the water and began CPR until paramedics arrived and took King to a Colton hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m.

An investigation into King's death is ongoing, but authorities said there were no initial indications of foul play and King appeared to have drowned.

PHOTOS: Rodney King | 1965- 2012

Milton C. Grimes, the Los Angeles attorney who represented King on-and-off in the early 1990s, said he received the news of King's death via text message Sunday morning from another client.

Grimes said he was stunned. "You just don't expect some people to go. This was sudden."

Grimes said he last spoke to King a few months back, just before the 20th anniversary of the riots that remain so rooted in Los Angeles' history. King was doing publicity for his book, "The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption," and seemed his "same old jovial self," Grimes said.

VIDEOS: Rodney King

The book, Grimes said, was a positive step forward for King, who had many run-ins with the law and had long struggled with drugs and alcohol. King called himself a recovering addict but had not stopped drinking, and possessed a doctor's clearance for medical marijuana.

"I always was hoping he would be able to tap into the power of the circumstances that he had been thrown into," Grimes said. "I always saw a potential in him that had not been actualized. It really is sad. In his heart, he's a good person, but just hadn't found his way."

Despite King's struggles, Grimes said he believed the 47-year-old would be remembered positively for the words he famously uttered in a news conference during the height of the riots: "Can we all get along?"

GRAPHIC: Where are the L.A. riots’ key figures now?

Grimes called the video capturing King's beating the "Loch Ness monster caught on a $200 camcorder" that exposed what he called an ongoing problem of excessive force used by police. Twenty years after the Los Angeles riots, King's name is still synonymous with other high-profile police cases.

"We've had cases since and cases before, but it stands for that: Excessive force," Grimes said. "I think [King] was a poster child for that and is going to be that for a long time."

Although King made headlines for other reasons throughout his life — his struggles with addiction, several arrests — Grimes said he was surprised by Sunday's news.

"If you watch that video, you'd say, 'How in the ... did he survive that beating?' And the accidents he's had ... just his life. Then to die from drowning in a pool," Grimes said. "This is not something you'd expect."


Rodney King, dead at 47 

Photos: Rodney King

Video: Rodney King beating

King found at bottom of pool by fiancee

King's death investigated as a drowning

King struggled with demons after beating

Rodney King 'grieving' for Trayvon Martin

Streeter: The past still grips Rodney King

Rodney King spoke to fiancee before she found him

Rev. Al Sharpton calls King 'symbol of civil rights'

Morrison: Rodney King, 20 years after L.A.'s riots

— Kate Mather


Photo: Earlier this year, Rodney King looks at a picture of himself from May 1, 1992, the third day of the Los Angeles riots, which hangs in the living room of his home in Rialto. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times